Great Skyrim Mods for Special Edition

Published: January 4, 2021 11:00 AM /


Skyrim Special Edition Bridge

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has, in the near decade since its release, amassed a large amount of mods. Thanks to the Creation Kit, you can even do quite a bit yourself with ease. With its dedicated modding community, there are many ways to experience Skyrim you never would have imagined a few years ago.

Many more advanced mods rely on others as a groundwork. Skyrim Script Extender (SKSE) is one that allows for much more complex scripting and is necessary for many things that change gameplay. SkyUI improves the user interface and lets you access the Mod Configuration Menu (MCM) to change some mod settings on the fly. You may also use JContainers SE (which expands Papyrus scripts), UIExtensions (adding custom menus for modders), the Unofficial Skyrim Patch (bugfixing), and ENBSeries (for graphics). All of these mods are available for Skyrim Special Edition on the PC, but mods available on other platforms are listed as well.


Of course, this is nowhere near an exhaustive list. Similar complementary mods are included below a mod if one exists.

Best Skyrim Special Edition Mods - Gameplay Mods

Alternate Start - Live Another Life

  • Lore Friendly
  • Also on Xbox One

So, you're finally tired of that lengthy intro and memetic cutscene? To the Nexus, player. This mod lets you choose your start from a variety of lore-friendly circumstances. Inn patron? Sure. Attacked and left for dead? A tough start, but doable. Surviving a shipwreck? Get to swimming! There are some additional options as well depending on your race. You could start in an Orc Stronghold, or be an agent of the Thalmor. If you just want the classic start, you can do that, too.

Skyrim Special Edition Ordinator Restoration Tree
"Restoration is a perfectly valid school of magic. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise!" - Colette Marence

Ordinator - Perks of Skyrim

  • Lore Friendly
  • Also on Xbox One

If you've built another stealthy archer by accident, consider this perk overhaul mod. Ordinator makes character building much more dynamic. The trees stay lore friendly as well, making it good if you're looking to mix things up. It can also be installed during a playthrough, refunding your already-spent perk points. There's something for everyone here, so check it out if you're done with your current stealth archer.


Also Consider: Perkus Maximus (PC)

Apocalypse - Magic of Skyrim

  • Lore Friendly

With over 150 new spells distributed among the schools, Apocalypse gives your mages much more depth. Alteration becomes much better thanks to Longstride (a concentration movement speed buff), Ocato's Recital (store spells and drop buffs for free on entering combat), and other utility spells. Restoration also gets more tools to help demolish undead. You can even invert its healing and channel its power into deadly plagues and curses. Most spells are lore friendly and well balanced, integrating seamlessly into Skyrim's current spell lineup. A patch allows it to work with Ordinator, too.

Also Consider: Phenderix Magic World (PC, Xbox One), Phenderix Magic Reloaded (PS4)


Best Skyrim Special Edition Mods - NPC & Content


  • Lore Friendly/noncanonical
  • Also on Xbox One

Featuring over 20 hours of gameplay, this ambitious (and completed) project adds quests, items, a soundtrack, and even new voice acting to a large new area to explore. Falskaar does its best to remain lore friendly and scales to player level, just like standard Skyrim content. Though it's a very large size, Falskaar doesn't rely on anything external for scripting, making it lightweight and relatively easy to install and uninstall.

Skyrim Special Edition Lydia
"I am, regretfully, still sworn to carry your burdens."

Relationship Dialogue Overhaul (RDO SE)

  • Lore Friendly
  • Original Voice Acting

Over 5,000 lines are added to Skyrim thanks to Relationship Dialogue Overhaul. Cut lines are restored, making NPCs feel fresh and new. Lines spliced from existing voice talent greatly enhance the experience. NPCs, especially followers and rivals, treat the Dragonborn like a friend (or enemy) and have more to talk about in general.


Also Consider: Immersive Citizens, Cutting Room Floor.

Beyond Skyrim: Bruma SE

  • Lore Friendly
  • Also on Xbox One
  • Ayleid Ruins

If you were a fan of Bruma in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, you can now visit it in Skyrim. Explore a wide area of Cyrodiil and encounter all sorts of NPCs. The Ayleid Ruins return from their Oblivion incarnation, their eerie lighting bringing a fresh new type of dungeon to Skyrim. There is quite a bit of scripting for this mod, but it considerably expands the amount of explorable terrain.

Also Consider: Beyond Reach

Best Skyrim Special Edition Mods - Visual


  • Extensive Character Customization
  • Lore Neutral
  • Presets! You can save presets!

RaceMenu is a nifty upgrade to your character creation. You can customize much more when it comes to character. Sliders give numeric values for more precision, you can adjust a character's hair color to your heart's content, and you can finally save and load presets through a menu! You can even adjust a character's skeleton in-game with the right setup, giving them unique (or simply monstrous) proportions.

Also Consider: Enhanced Character Edit SE (ECE), various body/face mods


Skyrim Special Edition Realistic Lighting Overhaul spell lighting
With the right setup, you can even have your spells emit light when you wield them in Realistic Lighting Overhaul. This works perfectly well with ENBs, minor tweaks notwithstanding.

Realistic Lighting Overhaul (RLO)

This lighting overhaul redoes interiors and exteriors all over Skyrim. Dimly lit interiors become dimly lit. Sunlight is more realistic. Over 10,000 edits were made to the lighting to get it to look just right, and you may finally find a use for those light spells. Your character's eyeballs can also slowly adjust to dark interiors on their own, just like in real life.

Static Mesh Improvement Mod (SMIM)

The Static Mesh Improvement Mod (SMIM) improves many of the blockier models in Skyrim. It's a subtle difference, but a great improvement with little to no performance hit. Among other things, it makes the numerous fences, rocks, ingots, and braziers look much more appealing. Fixed texture seams, better-looking food, and real 3D meshes all make Skyrim look much better.

Of course, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has thousands of mods for you to choose from. These are just a small sample of useful or immersive improvements that enhance visuals, gameplay, and feel. This RPG classic turns 10 next November, so if you're feeling a touch nostalgic for dragon-killing (or punting Nazeem), take a look at the Special Edition. If you have another must-have mod, share it with us below or find us online. You can even send us your hideous skeleton-scaled abominations and/or uncomfortably attractive characters.

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Bethesda Softworks
Release Date
November 11, 2011 (Calendar)
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